Joint tenancies

Joint tenants usually all have the same rights and responsibilities in their rented home and are all responsible for paying the rent.

Tenancy agreements

You have a joint tenancy if you and your flatmates or housemates all signed a single tenancy agreement with a landlord when you moved in. This means that you all have the same rights and responsibilities.

If each of you signed a separate agreement with the landlord, you have separate tenancies.

Rent liability when you're a joint tenant

Joint tenants are all jointly and individually responsible for paying the rent. This means that if one of you moves out without giving notice or is not paying their share, the other joint tenants are responsible for paying it for them.

If none of you pay your rent, your landlord can ask any one of you to pay the full amount.

All the joint tenants are usually also responsible for paying gas and electricity bills.

Tenancy deposits

When you move into private rented accommodation, you usually need to pay a deposit to cover any damage or unpaid rent.

Pay the deposit directly to the landlord or letting agency. If you have an assured shorthold tenancy check that your deposit is put into a tenancy deposit scheme.

Deductions from a tenancy deposit

The landlord normally takes a single deposit for the whole of the tenancy.

If one joint tenant fails to pay their share of the rent or if they cause damage to the property, the landlord is entitled to deduct the shortfall or damage from the deposit.

You and the other joint tenants decide how to divide up the remaining deposit when it is returned.

Tenancy deposits when a joint tenant moves out

If you are replacing another tenant who is moving out, they may ask you to pay the deposit to them instead. This may not be a good idea. If the tenant who is moving out has caused any damage to the property or left any unpaid bills, the landlord can deduct these costs from the deposit when you move out, which could leave you out of pocket.

Get advice if you are in this situation. It might be better to ask the landlord to give a new tenancy agreement to the tenants who is staying on.

Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.

Permission for changes

You need to get written permission from the other joint tenants if you want to carry out improvements to the property or pass on or assign your tenancy to someone else.

In most cases you also need your landlord's permission to do any of these things, or if you want to take in a lodger. 

Ending a joint tenancy: when one person leaves

The rules on how and when a tenancy can be ended depend on whether the tenancy is fixed-term (for a set period of time) or periodic (rolling from week to week or month to month). See the section on ending a tenancy for more information.

If you want to leave, discuss this with the other joint tenants before you take any action.

A fixed-term tenancy cannot be ended early unless all of the joint tenants agree and either:

  • your landlord agrees that the tenancy can end early (this is called a 'surrender'), or
  • there is a 'break clause' in your tenancy agreement, which allows you to give notice and leave early

If you have a periodic tenancy, or the fixed-term has ended and your tenancy has not been renewed, one tenant can end the whole tenancy and does not need the agreement of the other joint tenants. The landlord must be given a valid written notice and there are special rules about how and when this must be done.

Leaving a joint tenancy

If you want to leave a joint tenancy, it is usually best to discuss it with the other joint tenants before you take any action.

If the other joint tenant(s) don't want to move out, they can try to negotiate a new agreement with the landlord.

The remaining tenants may be able to find another person to take on the tenancy of the person who wants to leave (the landlord would have to agree to this), or agree with the other joint tenants to stay on and pay the extra rent themselves.

Your landlord may decide to:

  • give the other tenants a new tenancy agreement, listing the new tenants (in practice, your landlord might not bother to do this)
  • accept the rent from the new tenant – in which case the new tenant should have the same rights as a tenant whose name is actually on the tenancy agreement

Get advice from Shelter's free housing advice helpline, a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice if you're not sure what to do in this situation.

Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre near you.

Eviction of joint tenants

Your landlord cannot evict one joint tenant without evicting all the others. Instead, your landlord may be able to end the tenancy (using the procedures for eviction) and offer a new one to the remaining tenants.

Talk to your landlord as soon as possible if you are in this situation and you want to stay.

Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your local area.

Relationship breakdown

Get advice if you are worried about losing your home after a relationship breakdown.

You may have rights that you are not aware of. For example: 

  • it may be possible for your joint tenancy to be transferred into one person's name – this can sometimes be done even if the other joint tenant won't agree to it
  • it may be possible to stop the other joint tenant from ending the tenancy by applying for an occupation order or an injunction
  • if you have experienced domestic violence, it may be possible to keep the perpetrator out of your home or to take legal action such as an injunction

Problems with other joint tenants

If you have a problem with another joint tenant you probably have to sort this out yourself. Landlords are usually reluctant to get involved, although council or housing associations are more likely to get involved than private landlords.

 

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